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Scientific Name(s): Centaurium erythraea Rafn.
Common Name(s): Bitter herb, Centaurri herba, Centaury, Centaury gentian, Centaury herb, Christ's ladder, Common centaury, Feverfoullie, Feverwort, Filwort, Lesser centaury, Minor centaury, Mraret lahnach, Red centaury

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Nov 1, 2021.

Clinical Overview


Centaury has been used traditionally to treat snakebite, fever, anorexia, jaundice, and GI complaints such as bloating, dyspepsia, and flatulence. It also has been used as a sedative, as well as topically for freckles and spots. Centaury is reputed to be an aromatic bitter and tonic, and to act on the liver and kidneys to "purify the blood." However, there are no clinical data to support use for any indication.


There is no published clinical evidence to guide dosing of centaury.


Contraindications have not been identified.


Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

There are no known adverse reactions.


No data.

Scientific Family

  • Gentianaceae (gentian)


Centaurium consists of approximately 40 species (annuals or biennials) that vary according to various factors such as region and size. Examples include Centaurium spicatum (Australian species), Erythraea latifolia (broad-leaved centaury), and the German species Centaurium pulchellum (dwarf centaury) and Centaurium vulgare. The latter 2 have similar effects to C. erythraea but are more scarce and therefore not used for medicinal purposes.

Centaury is a small, annual herb native to Europe and naturalized in the United States. It thrives in boggy meadows as well as in dry dunes. Its stiff, square stem ranges from approximately 2 to 50 cm in height. The root is fibrous and woody. The plant has pale green, oval leaves, a capsule fruit, and light pink to red flowers. The whole herb (Centaurii herba) is used medicinally. The dried preparation is easily identified by red particles (dried flower) among the pale green leaf matter.(Osol 1955, USDA 2021, Weiss 2000) Synonyms are Erythraea centaurium, Centaurium umbellatum Gilbert, and Centaurium minus Moench.


Centaury has been used traditionally since the 10th century, possibly even by Saxon herbalists, for treating fever; hence the common name "feverwort." It was described as early as the first century AD by Dioscorides.(El Menyiy 2021) Traditionally, centaury has been used as a remedy for snakebite, anorexia, and GI complaints such as bloating, dyspepsia, and flatulence. It is reputed to be an aromatic bitter and tonic, and to act on the liver and kidneys to "purify the blood." Centaury has been used for its anthelminthic and sedative properties, for the treatment of jaundice, and topically for freckles and spots on the skin.(Blumenthal 1998, Duke 2002, Newall 1996) A secoiridoid found in C. erythraea has been approved in China for the treatment of acute jaundice and chronic hepatitis.(Guedes 2019)


Alkaloids, xanthones, and phenolic acids have been identified, and are similar to those of gentian. Triterpenoids and sterols including amyrin, crataegolic and oleanic acids, erythrodiol, and sitosterol stigmasterol, campesterol, and brassicasterol have also been described. Other components of the plant include flavonoids, fatty acids, alkenes, waxes, resins, and essential oil. The main components isolated from C. erythraea include xanthonoids and secoiridoids.(Aberham 2011, Barillas 2000, Duke 1992, El Menyiy 2021, Glatz 2000, Schmidt 2000, Valentao 2000)

Uses and Pharmacology

Pharmacological experiments reveal various biological effects of C. erythraea, including antioxidant, antifungal, antileishmanial, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, dermatoprotective, gastroprotective, spasmolytic, hepatoprotective, neuroprotective, and diuretic effects.(El Menyiy 2021, Haloui 2000)

Antibacterial/Antifungal activity

In vitro data

Activity against microorganisms has been demonstrated. Certain xanthones from C. erythraea may possess antimutagenic actions against several strains of Salmonella typhimurium(Schimmer 1996); it should be noted that mutagenicity has been demonstrated for methanolic extracts of the related product gentian (Gentiana lutea L.).(WHO 1999) Antibacterial effects against some gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria have also been demonstrated. Similarly, antifungal effects have been demonstrated.(El Menyiy 2021)

Antihypertensive effects

Animal data

In a murine model, a methanolic fraction of C. erythraea produced antihypertensive effects through promotion of endothelium-dependent vasodilation and prevention of fibroblast proliferation resulting from angiotensin II.(Chda 2020)

Anti-inflammatory/Antipyretic effects

Animal data

Anti-inflammatory and antipyretic, but not analgesic, actions of aqueous extracts of the plant have been demonstrated in several animal models.(Berkan 1991, Lacroix 1973)


Animal and in vitro data

In a systematic review of medicinal plants used in the treatment of diabetes, the chloroform extract of C. erythraea inhibited alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase. A hydroalcoholic extract of C. erythraea lowered glucose levels in mice with type 2 diabetes.(Hamza 2019) In an animal model of streptozotocin-induced diabetes, a methanolic extract of C. erythraea given daily increased insulin concentrations, decreased glucose levels, decreased hemoglobin A1c levels, and improved lipid panels. It also protected red blood cells from oxidative damage.(Đorđević 2017) In another study, an extract of C. erythraea improved the structure and function of pancreatic beta cells in animals with streptozocin-induced diabetes.(Đorđević 2019)

Enzyme inhibitory activity

In vitro data

Decoctions of C. erythraea exerted inhibitory activity against acetylcholinesterase and 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase.(Guedes 2019)


There is no published clinical evidence to guide dosing of centaury.

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.(Duke 2002, Newall 1996)


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Information is lacking.(Blumenthal 1998, Duke 2002) A case report of hepatotoxicity exists; however, causality was not established.(Stahlmann 2012, Sychev 2011)


Information is limited. Mutagenicity has been demonstrated for methanolic extracts of the related product gentian (G. lutea L.) in Salmonella assays.(WHO 1999) In an acute toxicity study in mice, oral doses of lyophilized C. erythraea up to 15 g/kg did not result in mortality or signs of toxicity; however, intraperitoneal doses were associated with a dose-related increase in mortality rate and acute toxicity, with a calculated median lethal dose (LD50) of 12.13 g/kg.(Tahraoui 2010) In a subchronic toxicity study in mice, daily doses of 100, 600, and 1,200 mg/kg for 90 days did not affect hematological or biochemical parameters, except for a small reduction in mean corpuscular volume.(Tahraoui 2010)

Index Terms

  • Centaurium minus Moench
  • Centaurium pulchellum
  • Centaurium spicatum
  • Centaurium umbellatum Gilbert
  • Erythraea centaurium
  • Erythraea latifolia



This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

More about centaury

Related treatment guides

Aberham A, Pieri V, Croom EM Jr, Ellmerer E, Stuppner H. Analysis of iridoids, secoiridoids and xanthones in Centaurium erythraea, Frasera caroliniensis and Gentiana lutea using LC-MS and RP-HPLC. J Pharm Biomed Anal. 2011;54(3):517-525. doi:10.1016/j.jpba.2010.09.03021050691
Barillas W, Beerhues L. 3-Hydroxybenzoate:coenzyme A ligase from cell cultures of Centaurium erythraea: Isolation and characterization. Biol Chem. 2000;381(2):155-160. doi:10.1515/BC.2000.02110746747
Berkan T, Ustünes L, Lermioglu F, Ozer A. Antiinflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic effects of an aqueous extract of Erythraea centaurium. Planta Med. 1991;57(1):34-37. doi:10.1055/s-2006-9600112062955
Blumenthal M, Busse WR, eds. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council, 1998.
Centaurium erythraea Tafn. USDA, NRCS. 2021. The PLANTS Database (, 22 September 2021). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
Chda A, El Kabbaoui M, Fresco P, et al. Centaurium erythraea extracts exert vascular effects through endothelium- and fibroblast-dependent pathways. Planta Med. 2020;86(2):121-131. doi:10.1055/a-1023-891831645066
Đorđević M, Mihailović M, Arambašić Jovanović K, et al. Centaurium erythraea methanol extract protects red blood cells from oxidative damage in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2017;202:172-183. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2017.03.01628323046
Đorđević M, Grdović N, Mihailović M, et al. Centaurium erythraea extract improves survival and functionality of pancreatic beta-cells in diabetes through multiple routes of action. J Ethnopharmacol. 2019;242:112043. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2019.11204331252092
Duke J. Handbook of Biologically Active Phytochemicals and Their Activities. CRC Press Inc; 1992.
Duke JA, Bogenschutz-Godwin M, duCellier J, Duke PK. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. 2nd ed. CRC Press; 2002.
El Menyiy N, Guaouguaou F-E, El Baaboua A, et al. Phytochemical properties, biological activities and medicinal use of Centaurium erythraea Rafn. J Ethnopharmacol. 2021;276:114171. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2021.11417133940085
Glatz Z, Pospíšilová J, Musil P. Determination of gentiopicroside in extracts of Centaurium erythraea and Gentiana lutea by micellar electrokinetic capillary chromatography. J Liq Chromatogr Relat Technol. 2000;23:1831-1839.
Guedes L, Reis PBPS, Machuqueiro M, Ressaissi A, Pacheco R, Serralheiro ML. Bioactivities of Centaurium erythraea (Gentianaceae) decoctions: antioxidant activity, enzyme inhibition and docking studies. Molecules. 2019;24(20):3795. doi:10.3390/molecules2420379531652501
Haloui M, Louedec L, Michel J, Lyoussi B. Experimental diuretic effects of Rosmarinus officinalis and Centaurium erythraea. J Ethnopharmacol. 2000;71(3):465-472. doi:10.1016/s0378-8741(00)00184-710940584
Hamza N, Berke B, Umar A, Cheze C, Gin H, Moore N. A review of Algerian medicinal plants used in the treatment of diabetes. J Ethnopharmacol. 2019;238:111841. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2019.11184130959140
Lacroix R, Merad M, Lacroix J, Abtroun N, Schoebel MF. Algerian pharmacopeia. 2 plants with antipyretic properties: Pt ammoides and Erythraea centaurium [in French]. Tunis Med. 1973;51(5):327-331.4794069
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Radix Gentianae Luteae. In: WHO Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plants. Vol 13. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 1999.
Schimmer O, Mauthner H. Polymethoxylated xanthones from the herb of Centaurium erythraea with strong antimutagenic properties in Salmonella typhimurium. Planta Med. 1996;62(6):561-564. doi:10.1055/s-2006-9579739000888
Schmidt W, Peters S, Beerhues L. Xanthone 6-hydroxylase from cell cultures of Centaurium erythraea RAFN and Hypericum androsaemium L. Phytochemistry. 2000;53(4):427-431. doi:10.1016/s0031-9422(99)00566-x10731018
Stahlmann R, Naber KG. Letter to the editor. Int J Risk Saf Med. 2012;24(2):121-122; author reply 123-124. doi:10.3233/JRS-2012-055622751194
Sychev DA, Semenov AV, Polyakova IP. A case of hepatic injury suspected to be caused by Canephron N, a Centaurium Hill containing phytotherapeutics. Int J Risk Saf Med. 2011;23(1):5-6. doi:10.3233/JRS-2011-051421507780
Tahraoui A, Israili ZH, Lyoussi B. Acute and sub-chronic toxicity of a lyophilised aqueous extract of Centaurium erythraea in rodents. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010;132(1):48-55. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2010.07.03820800671
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Further information

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